Don't panic: just prepare

14th January 2000 at 00:00
Steve Dickman tells how to make it through your first day, how to prepare for parents' evening (right) and (below) get to grips with your blackboard.

The final teaching placement has been completed. You are now a fully-fledged teacher - with a PGCE to prove it - about to turn up at the school where you had that successful interview in May. What do you do, though? After all, this time you are a member of staff. This is where the serious stuff begins.

Let's assume that you have had your timetable explained to you. Equally, we will presume that you have been given your mark book, lists of your teaching groups, information about form groups, the registration system, and that you are lucky enough to be based in your own teaching room. Oh, yes, almost forgot - you'll need room keys as well. What else can there possibly be? Plenty.

The problem is that there are lots of things which you, as the newly qualified teacher, need to know but which are easily overlooked. It can be a minefield, and that is before you even teach your first lesson. You can pick your way through the minefield, though, by preparing as much as possible so that the following is sorted out beforehand.

If you have travelled by car, see if there is anyone on the staff who lives near you. You might need help one day if your car breaks down. If you use public transport, you may well end up on the same bus as many of your pupils - which tests the resolve of many. See if you can arrange a lift.

Are there any special arrangements at break? Is there a tea or coffee machine? This may seem trivial, but it will assume massive importance when you stagger into the staffroom gasping after taking a group which some wag refers to as the "wild bunch".

Remember, too, the small matter of break duty. On which day will you be strutting your stuff in the yard? No idea? Find out. What about lunch? Can you buy sandwiches in the dining hall?

Try to put a name and face to each of the senior staff. Recently-appointed deputy heads may take exception to being confused with lunchtime supervisory staff, despite the hard work of the latter.

Does the school do anything special for NQTs? Is there a programme of activities? If so, when, where and how often do they take place? Is there someone designated to organise it all?

Meet, or at least find out about, your teaching union rep. You never know when you may need that person's help or advice.

Have a note of the LEA telephone number. You may need to contact the salaries department if your first pay cheque is not paid into the bank on time - which can hapen at the end of an NQT's first month.

What is the system, if any, for reprographics? Are you allowed to use the photocopy machine(s) or is it all done by designated staff? What about copyright regulations? You need to know when, where and how to produce those photocopies for homework, not to mention exercises for classwork.

Find out abut fire drill arrangements. The importance of this cannot be overstated.

Do you have the correct telephone number of the school? It is surprising just how many people overlook this. You will need to contact the place if you are ill or stuck in traffic and are going to be late.

Now the classroom - or rather, how to survive it. The following pieces of practical advice are based on classroom experience:

* Ensure that you have a seating plan of your group, just as you did when you were on your teaching placements.

* Spread your questions around the class rather than just the front seats or desks.

* Have a stock of scrap paper to hand for spot tests or pupils without exercise books.

* Know where the new exercise books are located in your classroom. Ditto for chalk or boardwriters.

* Find the electric sockets, for when you use tape recorders or OHPs (not to mention TVvideo facilities).

* Have a couple of old Biros and pencils handy for disorganised pupils. Make sure you know where your keys are.

* At all times, ensure you know where your handbag or wallet is.

* If you remove your jacket in class, make sure it is near you. You should also try to avoid leaving it in the staffroom.

* If you travel in by car, ensure that your car is properly locked when you leave it.

* Never lend money to a pupil. Always refer him or her to the appropriate head of year.

* Never give pupils tablets. If they are ill, refer them to the school nurse. If there is no school nurse, find out about school procedure in such cases.

* Only allow pupils to go to the toilet one at a time.

* Avoid losing your temper with a pupil. The school may well have some form of withdrawal system for "difficult" pupils. Find out. Aim to be finishing your lesson some three minutes before the bell. In the case of practical subjects, the time span will be longer.

* If you are registering a form group, ensure that the room is locked when you have dismissed the pupils for assembly.

* One age-old piece of advice is, "Be firm, fair and friendly - in that order". A good suggestion, particularly if the school is bracing itself for a visit from Ofsted.

Steve Dickman teaches at Wallasey School, Wirral


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